Category Archives: true story

HBO’s Phil Spector

I was completely taken aback by the title card that preceded HBO’s Phil Spector. Here’s what it said: “This film is a work of fiction. It is not “based on a true story.” It is a drama inspired by actual persons in a trial, but it is neither an attempt to depict the actual persons, nor to comment upon the trial or its outcome.”

What?? Wow. I wonder how many lawyers between HBO and Phil Spector it actually took to write that nightmare up? I understand it’s worded to keep either party from suing the hell out of each other, but it also seems like open season to make up whatever the hell they want about real people and not get sued. Wow.

The facts: Phil Spector, perhaps one of the world’s greatest music producers, shot model and actress Lana Clarkson in his home in 2003. Spector claimed it was suicide, was tried twice for murder, and finally convicted to serve nineteen years in prison.

This film: Helen Mirren plays defense attorney Linda Kenney Baden who enters Spector’s madcap mental ward world in an attempt get him out of the murder charges. Jeffrey Tambor as attorney Bruce Cutler provides occasional comedy relief.

Al Pacino plays Spector as subtle but completely insane, sort of like a sedated homeless clown person with voices in his head and a violent streak. His home is like cross between a museum, a circus, the Addams Family house, and the Psycho house. And oh, those wigs. Sadly the wigs were real.

The film’s soundtrack, like the performances of Pacino and Mirren, is one of its few saving graces. HBO’s Phil Spector is a wonderful example of a few diamonds hidden within a piece of dog crap. If I didn’t know about the case, and Spector’s career, I wonder if this movie would even made sense. It seems built for footnotes.

The film is surprisingly and unrecognizably written and directed by David Mamet. What was he thinking? And what did Phil Spector ever do to David Mamet? These are the mysteries I would like solved. I love Mamet, and this was a major disappointment.

As the tagline for this flick says, ‘the truth is somewhere in the mix.’ Unfortunately, I think that mix has been erased and taped over multiple times. This is a mess. This is two down in my book as far as HBO movies go. Between this and The Girl, I think they should stop making movies about real people, it’s just not working out. I’m dreading the Liberace biopic coming later this year now.

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The Super Cops

The Super Cops ~ Okay, I have to admit, when I first saw this movie back in the mid to late seventies I felt tricked. The name of the movie is ‘Super’ Cops, and the movie posters, TV advertising, and even the novelization said it was about the real life Batman and Robin. What an awful thing to do to a ten year old. If you promise me Batman and Robin, I’d better get Batman and Robin.

Sadly, there’s really none to be found here. In the footage of the real cops at the beginning, Dave Greenberg is wearing a red and white Batman t-shirt. In the midst of the movie there’s a sequence where neighborhood kids tease Greenberg, played by Ron Liebman, and Robert Hantz, played by David Selby, calling them Batman and Robin. That’s about all you get. Of course it doesn’t help that “Batman” TV show writer Lorenzo Semple Jr. scripted the film. I felt tricked. I wanted superheroes.

Batman and Robin on the wall in their only cameo.

That said, this true story of two unorthodox cops in Brooklyn, who both the citizens and the press dubbed Batman and Robin is a intriguing and entertaining one. The story of Greenberg and Hantz is pretty typical of the 1970s cop movie, lighter fare than the similar and earlier Serpico. There’s also a bit of “Charlie’s Angels” in there as well, because the two are patrolmen who want to be more.

While it is funny and entertaining, sadly there’s very little actual chemistry between Liebman and Selby. And Selby’s bug-eyed staring into the camera is just unnerving and a little bit creepy. It might’ve made a half decent TV show rather than a movie. Some of the humor is forced, juvenile, and seems to be desperately in need of a laugh track. That might help it actually. Worth a watch if nothing else is on, or as a time capsule for the 1970s. It’s no Batman and Robin, ya know?